Distance running has seen a surge in interest over the last few years. So much so that even as a self-proclaimed non-runner, I jumped on the bandwagon and ran a marathon. Previous to my training, I had never run more than the three-miles I was required to run in high school. But after months of training, I finally understood why so many people do distance running: it was strangely addicting and exhilarating. There is an undeniable sense of freedom that comes as you cover miles and miles of ground with nothing propelling you but your own two feet.

Recently I learned about a Czech man who had what is widely believed to be the greatest distance running performance at an Olympic Games. In 1940, as World War II was just getting started, Emil Zatopek completed his first run. He was 18 years old and had never run any distance before. The shoe company he worked for was sponsoring a 1500 meter run and he was convinced to race. Out of 100 participants, Zatopek came in 2nd. That’s when he realized he might have some hidden potential worth looking into.

As it turns out, Zatopek wasn’t just good at running; he was slowly becoming one of the best. By 1948 he had broken many Czech long-distance records and even had a gold medal in the 10,000m from the London Olympics under his belt.

Preparing for Greatness

The Triple Crown in horse racing is one of the most elusive accomplishments in all of sport. You have to win three races in the span of just five weeks. And you have to race against fresh horses, horses that only care about one thing: taking down potential Triple Crown winners. Until this year, no horse and jockey had achieved the goal for over 30 years. In fact, since 1919, only 12 horses have ever done it.

In 1952, Zatopek achieved a triple crown of sorts that is so rare, to this day he is still the only person to have accomplished the feat.

But to get to the Olymics, Zatopek had a relentless training regimen. In fact, he pioneered the use of interval training, which is widely used today. At the time, people thought he was crazy.

“Everyone said, ‘Emil, you are a fool!’ But when I first won the European Championship, they said: ‘Emil you are a genius!”

His workouts were brutal. One of his favorites was to do fifty laps on a track with half lap jogs sprinkled in between for rest. If you can call that rest… He was basically sprinting a half marathon one lap at a time.

Zatopek was all grit and no grace. He became known for his “ugly” running style. He put everything he had into it, which you could easily tell by looking at his face when he ran.

Emil_Zatopek-Running-Marathon

He looked like he was suffering through horrible pain, but he usually found a way to grind out a win, so he didn’t care what he looked like.

“I shall learn to have a better style once they start judging races according to their beauty. So long as it’s a question of speed, then my attention will be directed to seeing how fast I can cover the ground.”

The Helsinki Olympics

“I was unable to walk for a whole week after that, so much did the race take out of me. But it was the most pleasant exhaustion I have ever known.” -Emil Zatopek on his marathon win at Helsinki

All of Zatopek’s ugly running and interval training led up to three incredible performances at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

His first race of the games was his bread and butter, the 10,000m. After all, he was the returning gold medalist from the previous Olympics. Just as many expected Zatopek took the 10,000m without much trouble. He even set an Olympic record while he was at it.

A few days later, he took on the 5,000m. This race gave Zatopek a little more trouble. He was not the favorite in the event and it all came down to the last 150 meters. Zatopek had four runners to beat in that span. When all was said and done, Zatopek had a second gold and another Olympic record to boot.

With two golds under his belt, Zatopek was feeling unstoppable. So much so, he decided to enter the marathon. But Zatopek had never run a marathon. His first crack at the distance was going to be on one of the biggest stages in the sport after already giving his all in two other races.

The man to beat in the marathon was Jim Peters, who had set the world record in the distance just six weeks prior. Since Zatopek had never run a marathon, he had no idea how to pace himself. Unafraid of appearing weak and incompetent, Zatopek asked Peters mid-run if the blistering pace they were already running was too fast. Peters thought he could tire out the inexperienced runner and told him the pace was actually too slow. Believing the words of the world record holder, Zatopek adjusted his pace. Peters would eventually collapse out of the race trying to keep up with Zatopek. Zatopek won by an astonishing margin of two and a half minutes.

Zatopek’s triple gold in the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon has yet to be matched.

As further proof of the magnitude of his feat, the International Olympic Committee put up a statue of Emil Zatopek at the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. He is the only athlete to have such an honor.

Emil_Zatopek_Running

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” -Emil Zatopek

The Work

Though Zatopek may have had some natural talent, it was ultimately his grueling dedication to becoming better that gave him a championship edge. Zatopek is a prime example of what it takes to become the best. It takes a lot of grueling work that might look “ugly” from the outside, but in the end, it’s hard work (not just natural talent), that gives way to great victories.

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Photo source: Deutsche Fotothek

Strength-from-weakness

Temple Grandin is an expert on animal science who works at Colorado State University. She single handedly changed the way cows are treated in the livestock industry. Grandin is the author of multiple books and the subject of an Emmy Award winning HBO film. And that’s just a small part of her many accomplishments. Oh ya, and did I mention she is autistic?

How has Grandin been so influential even though she suffers from great mental and social difficulties? She uses her difficulties as an advantage.

The Strength of the Underdog

In his most recent book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell posits that oftentimes the weaknesses that make us an underdog are exactly what give us an advantage to overcome great odds . For example, in the biblical story of David and Goliath, David’s weakness in the fight against Goliath was that he was quite small.

However, David was a professional with his sling. How good was he? It is said that a stone fired from his sling would basically fire with the same force as a bullet from a .45 caliber pistol. On the other side, the thing that made Goliath so powerful was his size. However, that’s also what made him weak. He most likely suffered from acromegaly, which diminished his eyesight. Everyone assumed David would fight Goliath in hand-to-hand combat. But why would he do that if he could stay far away and still get the job done?

When David stepped in to the fight, he wasn’t an underdog at all.

Temple-Grandin-600x600

 

Grandin’s story is not much different. Even she understood that it was her difficulties with autism that gave her the unique ability to understand animals, which helped her become one of the world’s most respected advocates for the humane treatment of livestock.

In an article for Medscape, Grandin was asked if she would have achieved what she did if she were not autistic.

“I don’t think so, because there was a motivation that I had that a nonautistic person doesn’t have. And I had a visualization skill that goes beyond what most people have. When I designed a piece of equipment, I could actually test-run it in my head like these virtual-reality computer programs.”

Because Grandin had autism, she saw the world differently. Though she struggled with communication and found socializing extremely awkward and dull, she had an extraordinary visually gifted mind. She could visualize outcomes and circumstances with incredible detail.

Even though she had this great ability, convincing the male-dominated livestock industry to listen to her took some work. Grandin was persistent, and today more than half the cattle in North America are raised and processed more humanely because of systems she designed.

Despite all that she has done, Grandin doesn’t see herself as an anomaly. She believes autism shouldn’t define people.

“I am different, not less.” – Temple Grandin

Strength

 

Don’t Get Comfortable

Grandin also recognizes that she got where she is today because she got outside of her comfort zone, which is also an important key in turning a weakness into a strength.

In regards to her upbringing in a time when autism was far less understood than it is today, Grandin had the following to say:

“I’ve seen too much coddling. Mother was always saying, ‘You’re going to have to learn how to go in the store and talk to the clerks yourself.’ And I was scared to death. I’m seeing too many kids who actually are a lot milder than I was who don’t know how to walk into McDonald’s and order a hamburger.”

Strength-Temple-Grandin

Photo By Steve Jurvetson

Grandin’s mother knew her daughter had more potential than the world and even medical professionals at the time believed. She wasn’t going to let her daughter grow up comfortable and thus incapable of doing everyday tasks. That’s the mindset that pushed Grandin through years of school to get a doctoral degree in animal science and what helped her become a leader in the push for the rights of persons with autism.

Grandin’s story prompts me to look deep within myself. What weaknesses do I have that I have not yet looked at as strengths? Many of the world’s greatest accomplishments have come from people like Grandin who looked at things differently because of their “weakness.” The prospect of finding new strengths within my weaknesses is thrilling! There’s always more to life than meets the eye.

 

Ben-Franklin

We all know about the man who flew his kite in a lightning storm… or if that doesn’t ring a bell, how about the man who’s face is on the currency we all want in non-sequential, unmarked bills in our briefcases? Even if you don’t know anything about Benjamin Franklin, just knowing his face is on the hundred-dollar bill should give you a pretty good idea that he was somewhat of an important person.

The Man 

Benjamin Franklin had a curious and devoted nature that led to many discoveries in electricity and countless inventions ranging from bifocals to swim fins. I want to share the story of one of his many inventions, the Franklin stove, to give you a glimpse at the kind of person Franklin was.

The Franklin stove was a wonderful upgrade to the open fireplaces most people were using to heat their homes in the 1700’s. Franklin’s stove produced more heat and less smoke. In addition, the stove was made of cast iron so heat would absorb into the metal and radiate even after the fire had gone out. One day Franklin was approached by a man who wanted to help him patent the idea. Franklin would be the exclusive owner of the invention. But like a title straight from an Upworthy post, what happened next was truly inspiring. Franklin said no, citing a principle that has “ever weigh’d with [him].”

“As we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others, we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.”

Ben Franklin felt that his fireplace was an invention that should be shared freely with everyone. It saved people money and provided a better standard of living. He didn’t care about the money; he cared about the good it did for his fellow men.

The Goal

As is evident in the story of the Franklin stove, Benjamin Franklin was dedicated to being the best he could be. In fact, from the young age of 20, Franklin had his sights set on moral perfection. In order to reach his goal, Franklin carried around a small notebook. In his notebook was a chart with 13 virtues in it. Franklin concluded that if he could master those 13 virtues, he would attain moral perfection.

“I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time.”

 

The 13 virtues Ben Franklin established are as follows:

Infographic_Ben-Franklin

Franklin carried his notebook around with him everywhere. Inside the notebook he had a chart with a line for each of the 13 virtues. Whenever he messed up, he would put a dot next to that virtue to signify that he had not accomplished his goal for the day. The idea was to have the least amount of dots—ideally zero—at the end of each day.

He even took things further by rotating which virtue was at the top of the chart. Each week the virtue at the top would be the one he was most focused on. After 13 weeks he would start over and continue his quest for perfection.

But alas, as you might have guessed,  Ben Franklin never did achieve moral perfection.

“Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.

The Plan

History is full of successful people who advocate the practice of keeping a journal of some kind. There is power in being accountable to ourselves and hashing out our thoughts. Though Franklin used a physical notebook, we live in a day and age run by computers, and many people find it more convenient to journal digitally. Enter Degreed.

I have been quite inspired by Franklin’s devotion to becoming better. I’m all about that ‘being a happier person’ stuff. There is much to learn regarding moral perfection and a lot of it is available on the Internet. So I have created a Moral Perfection Pathway over at Degreed.com. I know I won’t be as diligent as Ben Franklin was, but this is something I believe in, and I will continue to update and improve the pathway as I find more worthwhile materials.

If you have any ideas for what I can add to my pathway shoot me a tweet or message me on Degreed!

Also, S/O to Art of Manliness for opening my eyes to Benjamin Franklin’s story.

Diana-Nyad-Advice

 

 

These were the 3 things uttered from the swollen mouth of 64-year old Diana Nyad as she stumbled out of the ocean and into the record books after a grueling 53-hour swim from Cuba to Florida in 2013.

The span between Cuba and Florida is an elusive stretch of water: 110 miles through the home sharks, the volatile Gulf Stream, and the most venomous creature in the ocean, the box jellyfish… Continue reading to find out how Diana Nyad and her team accomplished her amazing swim.

 

Photo source: DianaNyad.com

 

Never, Ever Give Up

“You can chase your dreams at any age; you’re never too old.”

Those were the words uttered from the swollen mouth of 64-year old Diana Nyad as she stumbled out of the ocean and into the record books after a grueling 53-hour swim in 2013.

The span between Cuba and Florida is an elusive stretch of water: 110 miles through the home sharks, the volatile Gulf Stream, and the most venomous creature in the ocean, the box jellyfish. No wonder those 110 miles have sent the greatest swimmers in the world packing since 1950. It wasn’t until 1997 that Susie Maroney finally made it from shore to shore. But even then, the accomplishment came with an asterisk: she did it with the safety of a shark cage.

Fast forward to 2010. Diana Nyad was determined to do Susie one better: she wanted to be the first to complete the swim without a cage.

Record-Breaking Beginnings

In 1978, Nyad was at the top of her game. Three years earlier she broke the record for the fastest swim around Manhattan Island by almost a full hour. Now she was going for the elusive Cuba to Florida swim. Though she swam inside the safety of a shark cage, the barreling waves and jellyfish stings became too much. Her team realized it was a lost cause and got her out of the water.

Then, just a year later, at the age of 30, she broke the open-ocean world record (102 miles) by swimming from the Bahamas to Florida. And she did it without a shark cage. After securing that major accomplishment, she decided to hang up her swim cap (or whatever you do with swim caps). Nyad had officially retired from swimming.

Just Keep Swimming

 It wasn’t until her mother died almost 30 years later—shortly before Nyad’s 60th birthday—that she began to reevaluate her life goals. She didn’t want to accept that her life had already been summed up. That’s when she decided to awaken her long-dormant dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida.

After intense training, Nyad was ready to go for broke. In 2011 her dream was cut short after just 29 hours in the water. A severe asthma attack, chills, and dehydration ultimately became too much to push through. She thought her dream was over. Little did she know she would still have to give it three more tries.

Her next attempt was only six weeks later. Things seemed to be going better than they had previously until she felt a pain like she was “dipped in hot burning oil,” and her “body [was] in flames.” A swarm of the deadly box jellyfish had attacked her. An EMT from her team jumped in to help but got stung in the process and had to get back in the boat. After what had to be an unbelievably excruciating experience treading water until the pain dissipated enough to endure, she continued swimming. Not long after, she was attacked again. At this point, she was on the verge of losing her life. The crew had to pull her from the water in order to save her.

Not deterred in the least, Nyad set out again a year later. She wasn’t going to lose to a jellyfish. This time she wore a protective mask, but the jellyfish again proved to be a formidable foe. The tentacles had found the only exposed spot on her face, her mouth. Still able to swim, Nyad pushed on. However, during this attempt, the heavens proved to be the most problematic. A massive storm circled overhead and churned the ocean waters. Nyad was stubborn and opted to continue through the storm. It wasn’t until lightning threatened the safety of her crew that she relented and got in the boat.

Fifth Time’s The Charm

In spite of endurance experts, neurologists, and even her own crew telling her it was impossible, Nyad stayed focused. She was not going to be conquered again.

She enlisted the help of the leading expert in box jellyfish and created a mask that would protect her entire face. The mask had a mouthpiece with two bite plates to defend her mouth from jellyfish tentacles. However, the mouthpiece wasn’t perfect, and she swallowed a lot of ocean water because of it. The salt made her throat swell and upset her stomach causing her to vomit. Which is pretty annoying when you’re trying to swim 110 miles, but at least it was better than dying from jellyfish stings.

At night, the crew couldn’t use lights because light attracts sharks and jellyfish. In the pitch black of night, Nyad’s crew relied only on the sound of her arms slapping the water to know she was still there. In those lonely, dark hours, she would sing songs to herself to keep her mind occupied.

Nyad was in the water for 53 hours straight. When she finally reached the shore, physically exhausted and elated at finally realizing her goal, she had three things to say to the crowd that had gathered:

1. Never, ever give up.
2. You can chase your dreams at any age; you’re never too old.
3. It looks like the most solitary endeavor in the world, but it’s a team.

Diana-Nyad-Advice

Nyad’s words are a fresh reminder that no hour of our life should be wasted, and that no one can accomplish anything great alone.

In a TEDWomen talk from 2013, Nyad had the following to say about her accomplishment:

“It wasn’t so much about the athletic accomplishment. It wasn’t the ego of ‘I want to be the first,’ that’s always there and it’s undeniable. It was deeper. It was ‘how much life is there left?’ Let’s face it; we’re all on a one-way street. What are we going to do as we go forward to have no regrets looking back?”

What are you going to do to move forward with no regrets?

Tweet Braden your goals and how you plan to accomplish your dreams. You just learned about personal development, get credit on your Degreed profile.

Photo Credit: DianaNyad.com

Humble beginnings, unflinching determination, and a dog named Butkus.

Most people have seen the 1976 film, Rocky—which took home three Academy Awards including best picture. Even if you haven’t seen it, it’s likely you have seen at least one of the myriad training montages mimicking the original montage from the film. Though the film has resonated with millions of people, the story of the man behind it all, Sylvester Stallone, is just as moving.

While enduring a rough childhood with his younger brother Frank, Stallone found himself in a high school for troubled youth. After that he bounced around to two different colleges and eventually dropped out to pursue acting.

As is the fate of many aspiring actors, Stallone had a rough time landing anything substantial. To support himself while he pursued his dream, he bounced around doing odd jobs and even took a role in an adult film.

In 1974 he had a small stroke of luck co-starring in The Lords of Flatbush. However, the film wasn’t much of a success, and Stallone became frustrated by his seemingly endless stream of rejections. Fueled by his frustration and the fact that he was teetering on the edge of poverty, Stallone decided to focus more of his time on writing screenplays.

It was during this time that Stallone came up with the concept for Rocky. In 1975, lowly boxer, Chuck Wepner, stepped into the ring with The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. Wepner was physically outmatched but mentally prepared. Wepner took hit after hit for all 15 rounds—ultimately succumbing to a TKO in the final round. Stallone watched the whole fight play out. He was mesmerized and inspired by Wepner’s determination.

”I was watching the fight in a movie theater, and I said to myself, ‘Let’s talk about stifled ambition and broken dreams and people who sit on the curb looking at their dreams go down the drain.’ I thought about it for a month. That’s what I call my inspiration stage. Then I let it incubate for 10 months.”

After his self-appointed incubation stage, Stallone got to work. Stallone wrote the entire first draft of the Rocky screenplay in just 3 1/2 days.

“I’d get up at 6 A.M. and write it by hand, with a Bic pen on lined notebook sheets of paper. Then my wife, Sasha, would type it. She kept saying, ‘You’ve gotta do it, you’ve gotta do it. Push it, Sly, go for broke.”’

Once his writing was finished, Stallone began shopping his new screenplay around. He knew he had a hot story when he began fielding six-figure offers.

He turned the first offer down because the producers wanted a big-name actor to play the role. Stallone was adamant about playing the role of Rocky, and to him not being able to star in his film was a deal breaker. It was his way or bust.

To give a little depth into the magnitude of his decision, at the time his wife was pregnant, and he had next to nothing in the bank. Eventually he was offered up to $265,000—still with the caveat that he couldn’t play the lead.

He turned that down too.

While he waited for a producer that would work with him, he began to make sacrifices in other areas of his life. In what had to be one his lowest points, Stallone sold his bullmastiff, Butkus, to a perfect stranger. He tied the dog up at a store with a sign that said “100 bucks”. He got $50 for him.

Ironically, Stallone finally sold the screenplay not a week later to two producers who would let him star in the film. He sold it for much less than he had been offered before, but he got a 10% stake in the earnings. He immediately tracked down the guy who bought his dog. The guy gave him the business and had no intention of selling the dog back. Stallone eventually had to pay $3000 to get ol’ Butkus back. Fun fact: both Butkus and the guy who almost didn’t sell the dog back appeared in the film.

Looking back, Stallone says he never would have settled for the money without the leading role:

”I never would have sold it. I told my wife that I’d rather bury it in the back yard and let the caterpillars play ‘Rocky.’ I would have hated myself for selling out, the way we hate most people for selling out. My wife agreed, and said she’d be willing to move to a trailer in the middle of a swamp if need be.”

Though the movie was shot in 28 days with a budget of only $1 million, the film brought in over $117 million in the domestic box office. From his humble beginnings to his first big hit, Stallone went on to become the only man alive with a No. 1 box-office hit in five consecutive decades.

Stallone had a dream and an unyielding desire to achieve it. Unrelenting in his determination not to sell out, he eventually found himself at the top of Hollywood. You can tell a lot about a person who can turn down a large sum of money while struggling to even put food on the table. But Stallone knew he was more than just a writer: he was a star.

And the moral of the story, in the words of Stallone himself (speaking on the film in an interview from 1976) is:

“If nothing else comes out of that film in the way of awards and accolades, it will still show that an unknown quantity, a totally unmarketable person, can produce a diamond in the rough, a gem.

 

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The following is a tale that some have called one of the most daring rides in history. While Paul Revere’s midnight ride is better known thanks to the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Jack Jouett’s midnight ride was absolutely more difficult. Jouett’s story is not only a story of being in the right place at the right time but also a story of taking action.

We can’t will ourselves into situations like Jouett’s, where we are in the right place at the right time. But if and when we do find ourselves in those circumstances, we must make sure we have sufficiently prepared ourselves so that we don’t just sit by idly, afraid that we might fail if we try. Jack Jouett’s experience is a refreshing example of someone with great determination who was ready to act when it mattered most.

The Backstory

Jack Jouett was a captain in the Virginia militia stationed in the Charlottesville area. On the night of June 3, 1781, Jouett was sleeping soundly on the lawn in front of the Cuckoo Tavern. Sometime late that night, the rustle of horsemen drew him out of his slumber. He awoke to find a hefty unit of White Coats: a notorious regiment of British Dragoons led by Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Right time, right place.

Quick Thinking

Jouett was an astute son of a gun, and he quickly anticipated the intentions of the White Coats. Jouett knew that Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and a slew of other notorious rebels were meeting just 40 miles up the road in Charlottesville at the Virginia General Assembly. At the time, Virginia hadn’t seen much in the way of battle, so most of the able-bodied men were up north with General George Washington. The remaining men in Virginia only added up to a small militia who were not sufficiently equipped to put up a fight against the White Coats.

Jouett knew that if he didn’t take charge and outpace the White Coats to the General Assembly, Tarleton and his men would have an easy victory in Charlottesville. The ride would be extremely risky and very likely impossible.

When Paul Revere mounted his horse in Boston headed toward Lexington, he had roughly 10-12 miles ahead of him on established roads. Jouett had to ride four-times the distance of Revere and he had to do it on rough, Virginia back roads! Assuming Tarleton had advance scouts on the main road to Charlottesville, Jouett couldn’t risk taking the main road at any point of his ride. His only option was to try and beat the White Coats to Charlottesville through the dark, overgrown Virginia backwoods.

In a quote by Virginia Dabney, the difficult obstacles that lay before Jouett were described in eye-opening detail:

“The unfrequented pathway over which this horseman set out on his all-night journey can only be imagined. His progress was greatly impeded by matted undergrowth, tangled bush, overhanging vines and gullies…his face was cruelly lashed by tree limbs as he rode forward and scars said to have remained the rest of his life were the result of lacerations sustained from these low-hanging branches.”

Photo Finish

Though seemingly insurmountable obstacles lay before Jouett, his determination edged him out over the White Coats. He made it to Jefferson’s Monticello home just as the dawn light painted the Virginia landscape. By the time Jefferson and the few Virginia legislators staying at his home made it out, the White Coats weren’t far behind. Once Jouett had alerted Jefferson, he mounted his horse again—bruised, bloody, and exhausted—and rode into Charlottesville to alert the rest of the Virginia Assemblymen.

In 1926, 145 years later, Stuart G. Gibbony, President of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, laid to rest any qualms about the significance of Jouett’s historic ride to Charlottesville:

“But for captain Jack Jouett’s heroic ride, there would have been no Yorktown and the Revolutionists would have been only unsuccessful rebels.”

Jouett was truly a man of honor who was motivated by a cause greater than himself. When opportunity came knocking, he gave it everything he had.

Sometimes we have the choice to ride through metaphorical, overgrown backwoods or to go back to sleep. If we choose the road less traveled, and do it for a cause greater than ourselves, we can know that it’s at least worth it to try and possibly fail than to never try at all. I hope we can all take a page from Jouett’s book and live with a little more determination and a little less fear of failure.

You just learned about history, get points for this article on Degreed. You can catch Braden on Twitter. Subscribe to the blog here:

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1_Hedy-Lamarr_600x600

I can excuse everything but boredom. Boring people don’t have to stay that way. -Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr embodied her words to the max. Hedy started her career as an actress in Vienna, Austria in the 1930’s. She later moved to Hollywood and subsequently became the epitome of glamor on the big screen. Her good looks earned her the moniker “the most beautiful woman in the world.”

3_Hedy-Lamarr_image_600x740

Inventive State of Mind

Though she was the standard of beauty at the time, Lamarr wasn’t content. She was a curious person and took an interest in—of all things—torpedo control systems. Her first husband, Friedrich Mandl, was a regular Tony Stark. He worked in weapons manufacturing and often brought Lamarr to his meetings where she absorbed a lot of the information and garnered a wealth of technical knowledge.

True to her words, Lamarr didn’t seem to let herself be bored. Hedy installed a drafting table in her house where she channeled her inner Edison. Two projects she was known to have worked on were an improved stoplight and a water-soluble tablet that would turn water into a carbonated soft drink. *Side note: I don’t know about you, but that tablet sounds pretty awesome. Buy a $.50 water at the movie theatre. Drop in the tablet. BAM! No more sneaking in 20oz bottles of Mtn Dew.

Anyway, Lamarr’s curiosity and desire to learn would lead to a pretty significant invention.

Secret Communication System

The inventive gears really started turning when Lamarr became friends with composer/musician, George Antheil, in 1941. The two made a rather peculiar scientific duo. They hit it off immediately. Their curiosities and ideas flowed seamlessly together and they secured a patent for what they coined a “Secret Communication System.”

Initially Lamarr and Anthiel wanted to the system to be able to protect radio-controlled torpedoes in WWII. The system would change the frequencies guiding the torpedo thus making it impossible for the enemy to jam the trajectory. However, Anthiel and Lamarr’s invention was never used in WWII because the technology to implement it was lacking at the time.

It would be twenty years before Lamarr’s idea was really put to good use. The first most notable use of the Secret Communication System was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Ships in the naval blockade used the technology to communicate without being compromised.
 
Thanks, Hedy

The idea behind the Secret Communication System—frequency hopping—is the grandfather to what we call spread spectrum today. Spread spectrum is what is used to allow secure cellular communication.

Lamarr’s idea was so groundbreaking that more patents have piggy backed off of the idea. Many of today’s technologies including GPS and Bluetooth are possible because of frequency hopping. So next time you get in your car and connect Pandora to your Bluetooth audio, you can thank Hedy Lamarr for that.

 

You just learned about history, technology, and inventions. Track that learning on Degreed. Tweet Braden your thoughts on this article and other interesting inventions you know of.

Harriet Tubman was a champion of the Underground Railroad. As a “conductor” on the Railroad, she led roughly 13 trips to rescue family and friends. Born into slavery in Maryland in the 1820’s, Harriet endured more than twenty years as a slave. In 1849 she decided to attempt an escape, and took off with two of her brothers, but on the way the boys got cold feet and returned to the plantation. Determined to make it to freedom, Harriet continued on and eventually arrived in the free state of Pennsylvania.

Finally free after years of slavery, Harriet had a difficult choice to make: stay free and start a new life, or risk losing it all by going back to save her family and friends. Harriet bravely chose the latter.

“…there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home, after all, was down in Maryland, because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free.” -Harriet Tubman

The Fugitive Slave Law—which passed a year after Harriet escaped—made rescuing the people she loved in Maryland a little more difficult. The new law made freedom harder to find because it required law enforcement in the northern states to capture and return escaped slaves to the south. Harriet wasn’t about to let the law stop her, she decided to extend the escape route all the way up to Canada, where the law didn’t apply.

A Firm Yet Loving Leader
Harriet Tubman lacked any kind of formal education. She couldn’t write, and she wasn’t the most eloquent speaker- but when it came to leadership and ingenuity, Harriet was one of the best in the business.

Harriet knew what needed to be done and executed with precision even if it meant pulling a gun on her own people.

Harriet-Tubman_640x200“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” -Harriet Tubman 

Harriet carried a pistol on all her trips. The pistol served as protection, but it was also used it to motivate the slaves. On the long, uncertain journey from Maryland to Canada, some of the escaped slaves would become distraught. On the Underground Railroad they barely slept, and they never knew whom they could trust or when their next warm meal would be. If the uncertainty became too much and a slave threatened to turn back, Harriet was forced to pull out the gun and keep them going.

If someone left the group, they would certainly be coerced to give away the people and the safe houses that supported the Underground Railroad. A defector could crumble the whole operation and put many good people into dangerous situations. Harriet was not going to let that happen.

On the other hand, Harriet also understood the importance of being a source of inspiration to the slaves she was guiding. She would tell stories to make them laugh or to remind them of their past difficulties as a slave to keep them focused on finding freedom. She knew the importance of giving the people hope. Even when something didn’t seem right or when she was navigating through unknown territory, Harriet always made an effort to hide her fear or concern. She would never have saved as many people as she did had she not calmed her fears and led with confidence.

A Well-Oiled Machine
Harriet Tubman concocted perfectly orchestrated escape plans. She would mimic bird sounds or sing songs at varying tempos to let slaves know if it was safe to escape out of their cabins at night. She eventually learned that Saturday night was prime time to lead escapes because print shops were not open on Sundays. That meant that even though slave owners knew the slaves had escaped, they couldn’t get the word out until Monday when the reward posters could be printed and distributed.

Harriet was a brilliant leader who was the perfect combination of firmness and love. Though uneducated, her dedication to freeing her friends and family forced her to acquire a specific and valuable set of skills. Ultimately those skills, combined with her leadership qualities, brought about the freedom of roughly 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad. In addition to saving slaves, when the Civil War broke out, Harriet jumped right in as a spy for the Union army. One of her greatest achievements in the war was aiding in the rescue of 700 slaves from South Carolina. Harriet dedicated her life to helping people, and fought to save others until the day she died.

We can all take a page from Harriet Tubman’s book. Whether we want to be a better, more loving friend and family member or a more effective leader, Harriet’s story is one worth digging into a little bit deeper to discover a great example of dedication, leadership, and success.

What are your thoughts on leadership style? What works best for you? Leave a comment below and tell us! You can find Braden on Twitter.

In the 1980’s Michael Santos started trafficking cocaine, which eventually resulted in a 45 year prison sentence. Michael experienced an intense change in mentality and earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, wrote 2 books longhand, married his wife, and earned six figures on the stock market- all behind bars.  Click here to read Part I of this 2 Part Series “No Excuses:  How Michael Santos Created Success in Prison”.

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Michael Santos was released from prison in 2012 after serving 26 years. He has an extraordinary outlook on life and an insatiable desire to make himself and others better. I had the opportunity to do an interview with him, one of the first things he said was “Be the change you want to see in the world!” Michael’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. There is much to value in his advice.

Can you describe your transition from the criminal mentality to using your prison sentence to learn and grow? Was it an instant change of thought or more of a slow transition?

When I was 21 years old I saw Scarface and it really influenced me. I wanted to get into that. I eventually got arrested [for dealing cocaine] when I was 23. I knew I was facing a very long sentence—possibly life without parole. My case didn’t involve any violence, but because of the war on drugs people were getting long sentences. After I was convicted, but before I was sentenced, I read the story of Socrates. Socrates was in jail, and he had an opportunity to escape. But he didn’t take it. He chose death. That story had a profound effect on me. It made me think about what I could do to make the most of my time in prison. It was an instantaneous change after I read that story. I began to think about what steps I could take to reconcile with society.

What was it that led you to pick up that book?

In jail I started to pray and ask for guidance. I didn’t pray to get out of jail, but to get me through the journey. Those prayers led me to the book, A Treasury of Philosophy—specifically the story of Socrates.

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I was a terrible student in school and never read books growing up. But my prayers led me to read that book. I began to think, “What would law-abiding citizens expect from me?”

That’s when I came up with a three-part plan. I was going to educate myself, contribute to society, and build a support network. If I could execute that plan, I could emerge from prison with dignity.

While you were in prison you were met with setback after setback, yet you came out victorious. What advice would you give to someone who is discouraged because of setbacks in his/her life?

I would encourage them to visualize success. Figure out the best possible outcome to their life. I started to think in the cell, not about getting through the day or the week, but about success. I would think, “What is the best possible outcome for this?” The visualization was to become a law-abiding citizen. I wanted people to see me as a good person—not just someone who made bad decisions as a youth. The more clarity I got on that, the more empowered I became.

Don’t look at today’s struggle because then you are just focused on those struggles. Make a three-year, five-year, or ten-year plan. Visualize what the best possible outcome is in three, five, or ten years. Then reverse engineer where you need to be and create a plan. Create a plan for what you can accomplish in a year, a month, a week, and a day and work on that. You become empowered as an individual as you move toward what you define as a victory.

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How have you adjusted your personal growth patterns now that you have more freedom?

I’m still very disciplined. I’ve been free from the Bureau of Prisons for almost two years now. I’ve found there are so many more tools to use. I got a nice Mac Pro: no more spinning ball! I’m trying to learn social media better. When I was in prison I never even sent an email. I read about it, but I never experienced it. I have a lot to learn, and I still need to master the tools that are available.

What’s next for you?

My big project right now is a new podcast that I have developed. It’s called Earning Freedom. I produce a new episode every day. On the episodes I interview formerly incarcerated people or business leaders. I’m trying to connect with more employers and formerly incarcerated people to learn from them and tell their stories.

I have also written a few simple eBooks to help individuals who have been indicted—so they can really understand the process they will be going through. I want to help them begin a deliberate path and position themselves so they can emerge successfully without letting the prison experience be a failure.

Will you be writing another book?

Yes. I will be writing a follow up to my book Earning Freedom that will have the details of my time after I was released from prison

If you haven’t read Michael’s book, Earning Freedom, I highly recommend it. You can also read more about Michael’s story or listen to his podcast here

Click here to read Part I: No Excuses: How Michael Santos Created Success In Prison

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